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How to Paint Rooms Like a Pro: 10 Do’s and Don’ts From Modsy’s Expert Designers

Painting your walls can be pretty intimidating. It’s not a home update that’s permanent—but the time and financial investment definitely raise the stakes. So, choosing a paint color is not something many people take lightly!

And beyond paint color, there’s a whole slew of other decisions to make and tasks to tackle. What sheen do you choose? Should you paint your ceiling and trim as well? Can you skip the primer? It’s overwhelming, to say the least.

However, as experts in interior design, we’re well-acquainted with the process of picking paint colors and putting in the work to paint a room. With this experience (and the many mistakes we’ve made along the way) we’ve come up with a comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts to help you out when choosing a paint color and painting your walls. Read on for our tips for painting a room and some guidelines to help you choose the right paint color for your space.

blue wall mcm living room with fireplace

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Paint Color: Symphony Blue, Benjamin Moore

How Do You Choose A Paint Color?

Whether you’re painting an accent wall, choosing a trim color, or painting an entire room, the basic principles for choosing a paint color remain. Start by narrowing down your color options. Once you land on a high-level color, hone in on the shade and undertone you prefer.

But how do you choose the right color and shade?? Maybe you know you want to go with white paint on your walls. Well, do you want a bright white or something softer? Something with blue undertones or yellow? You quickly realize that white is not one color but one hundred. And, frankly, the same goes with most other colors as well!

 

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If you’re wondering how to even begin choosing a color palette and narrowing down what colors to consider out of the thousands of paint colors on the market, our Modsy designers can help. When you start a design project, you not only get your room designed in life-like 3D, but you also get to try on paint colors so you can see how the color will look with your furniture and decor!

And if you’re looking for some specific color tips, check out our posts on the best Benjamin Moore paint colors, the best bedroom paint colors, and the 2021 colors of the year from Pantone, Sherwin-Williams, and Benjamin Moore.

black walls modern glam office

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Paint Color: Cheating Heart, Benjamin Moore

Painting a Room: The Do’s & Don’ts

However, there are also some high-level do’s and don’ts that can help you narrow in on the right shade for your space. These tips will help you as you narrow down your color options.

Do: Paint a Swatch and See How it Looks

One of our favorite designer hacks to hone in on the right wall color is to get a sample can of paint and paint a 3×3-foot swatch on your wall of the color you’re considering, and observe it for a week. (Ideally somewhere obvious, like behind your sofa or above your bed, so it’s front and center throughout the day.)

See how the color feels in the space throughout the day. How does it look in morning light versus afternoon? What does it look like after the sun is set and your room is only lit by lamps? And how does the color interact with your furniture, decor, and finishings? The tones of a wall color will shift throughout the day, depending on the lighting and the surrounding environment—so it’s important to make sure you like your wall color at all times of the day.

And if you have colored decor in the room you’re going to paint—whether it’s bold throw pillows, bedding, or a rug—make sure to hold those items up to the painted patch to see how the colors interact.

Don’t: Ignore the View Outside Your Window

Did you know that the colors occurring outside of your home—your neighbor’s house, the building across the street, a wooded backyard—will impact how a color looks in your space? If your neighbor has a yellow house, your wall color will reflect more yellow tones back at you. That beautiful wooded backyard? You’ll likely get some green tones in your space. All the more reason to test out some color swatches before you commit!

Do: Consider the Colors and Tones of Your Flooring and Furniture

It’s not just the colors outside of your home that will impact how paint will look in your space. You’ll also want to consider the hues of your furniture and decor, as well as the colors and tones in your flooring. The color of your floor will reflect and cast hues on your walls in the same way that your neighbor’s house will. (So, that blue carpet or those red terracotta tiles will visually impact how a paint color looks in your room!)

And, in terms of furniture, you’ll want to make sure wood tones and upholstery colors interact well with the paint color you choose. You aren’t dealing with color reflection with these pieces as much—but you want to create a bit of contrast. So, if you have a light grey sofa, you probably don’t want to choose a light grey paint color. Maybe go for something a bit more bold on the walls? And if you have large pieces of wood furniture, or even wood flooring, consider offsetting the wood’s tone with the color you choose—aka use a cooler tone on your walls to offset warm wood tones in your floorboards or furniture, and vice versa. Have more than one wood tone to contend with? Check out our guide to mixing wood tones.

black and yellow walls modern living room

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Paint Colors: Illuminating, Pantone

Kendall Charcoal, Benjamin Moore

Don’t: Be Afraid of Bolder Colors

Bold-colored rooms are fun and can add a vibrant touch to your space. But a bold wall color can feel intimidating, especially if you currently have neutral walls! Just take time to find the bold hue that suits your space, design style, and decor! One of our favorite ways to bring a bold wall color to life? The Jewel Box room—one of our 2021 trend predictions! Don’t want your whole room to be full of bold colors? Dip your toe in by just painting an inlet (pictured above) or try an accent wall of a bold color, with a neutral tone on the other walls!

pink boho bedroom

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Paint Color: In The Pink, Sherwin-Williams

Don’t: Pick a Trendy Color if You Don’t Love It

However, even if everyone else is painting their walls a certain color, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you (remember the Millennial Pink craze of the late 2010’s?)! While you don’t have to stick with a paint color forever, you do want to make sure the color you choose is one that makes sense for your style and your home. So, don’t choose a color just because it’s trendy!

Do: Pick the Right Sheen for Your Space

Interior paint comes in several different sheens. There’s glossy, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, and flat, to name a few. So, how do you know which sheen to choose? Well, the sheen you choose actually does matter, since different sheens are good for different looks and purposes.

An eggshell is the most popular sheen for interior walls. However, flat paint is matte and creates a more modern vibe, while semi-gloss and satin are great for walls and trim. Just consider this when choosing the right sheen for your space: the lower the sheen, the harder it is to clean. This is an especially important consideration in homes with kids and pets, where you’ll likely need to wipe down the walls more often! But it’s also a good consideration in kitchens, where splashes and spills happen when cooking, and wiping down the walls is required.

White walls contemporary room

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Paint Color: Alabaster, Sherwin-Williams

Tips for Painting a Room

Ok, so you’ve landed on a paint color. That’s great! With the thousands of paint colors out there, that’s no small feat. But now you actually need to do the work and put paint to walls. And that can be quite the daunting task! Here are some of our designers’ top tips for painting a room to help you get the best possible outcome!

Do: Paint in the Warmer Months

Spring and summer are good times of year to paint a room, since you can open windows for ventilation and get a breeze going. (You don’t want to fumigate yourself just to paint a wall!) Just make sure it’s not a super humid day, as paint won’t fully cure in hot and humid weather. And avoid rainy days too. Paining a room might seem like the perfect rainy summer day activity, but open windows, rain, and fresh paint don’t mix! Plus, with extra moisture in the air, like on a humid day, your paint will take longer to cure.

Don’t: Skip the Prep Work

Prep work makes all the difference when painting a room. It’s the difference between a sloppy or professional end result. Take the time to cover or move any furniture in the room you’re painting, tape your edges, and don’t forget to prime your walls. Priming is especially important when going from a darker to lighter paint color—but even if you’re sticking with neutral paint colors but opting for a different hue, priming will guarantee you get the exact color outcome you want rather than having weird undertones.

green ceiling and wainscoting with wallpaper grand millennial

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Paint Color: Lounge Green, Sherwin-Williams

Don’t: Ignore the Ceiling

The ceiling is part of the room too—so don’t forget to freshen it up alongside your painted walls! A fresh coat of white paint can make your new wall color pop. But you could also go bold and try the trend of painting your walls a more neutral color and going bold on your ceiling color!

Do: Freshen Up the Trim

A fresh coat of paint on your walls can truly transform a room. But don’t neglect the trim around your doors and windows! If your wall is fresh and nice but your trim is scuffed and dirty, your room simply won’t look as nice or finished.

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11 of the Most Popular Living Room Color Schemes

When it comes to living room design ideas, one of the most important elements to consider is the color scheme! Color sets the tone, mood, and vibe of a space. This can happen through living room paint colors, but also through your upholstery and decor.

Color psychology tells us that certain colors can influence if your home feels more calming or bold, cheerful or stimulating, dramatic or comfortable. Color can also impact how large or small a space feels—no renovation required!

So, when it comes to choosing a living room paint colors, and overall palette for your living room—a space where you spend so much time—ask yourself: what vibe do I want to create? It’s all about finding a color scheme that you respond to and that makes you feel good. And that’s going to be different for everyone!

Color also influences the other pieces you bring into your space—from furniture to rugs, art, and decor. So, landing on living room paint colors and an overall color scheme is a great first step when redesigning any room.

Today, we’re breaking down the most popular living room colors and palettes, along with what mood they’ll strike and what vibe they’ll create in your home!

White

There’s something so bright and cheerful about an all white living room design. It creates a calm, airy, and light vibe—but it’s far from being cold when you mix white with shades of cream and taupe. Varying light neutrals like these will create more depth and nuance in your space. And be sure to offset all the whites with warm wood tones for some rich natural texture throughout.

This color scheme is perfect for…

Those who want a bright—but not colorful—space and those who love natural textures. It’s perfect for boho and rustic styles.

Greyscale

A living room in greyscale doesn’t mean a bleak and dreary space. You can actually approach this color scheme in several ways—either using varying shades of dark and light grey, or pairing grey with white and black for contrast. Either way, a greyscale color palette infuses your living room with cool elegance and sophistication, creating a very cool and modern vibe.

This color scheme is perfect for…

Mod, industrial, and lofty spaces where you can play up the drama. It’s not an ideal choice for those who like lots of colors and liveliness in their space.

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Blues

A blue living room design creates a calm and welcoming vibe to your living room. We love the idea of mixing various shades of blue throughout the space, along with pops of white and natural materials for balance. This color palette is easy on the eyes and creates a very inviting atmosphere.

This color scheme is perfect for…

Those who love classic color combinations—because there’s nothing quite so classic as the blue and white combo. It’s the perfect color scheme for coastal and rustic styles!

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Jewel Tones

Want a lively and bold living room? Consider a bright, multicolor space, brought to life through a mix of jewel-tone colors. In the living room above, we went for a purple wall, which adds richness and drama to the space. We mixed that with a saturated rug, then used a mix of  pink, navy, and yellow accessoires to create a lush looking living room design. But, when decorating in jewel tones, it’s important to ground and balance out the look with wood, rattan, and other natural textures and materials.

This color scheme is perfect for…

Those who want an energized and personality-packed space. This palette would make glam and eclectic living rooms come to life!

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Gold & Green

A gold and green color palette creates a very sophisticated and elegant vibe in your living room—especially when pulled together with other warm metal finishes. It’s lively, too, as green represents growth and renewal and gold is a naturally exciting color, associated with warmth and opulence.

This color scheme is perfect for…

Those who want polished space that still has plenty of personality. This is a great look for those with glam style.

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Pastels

Pastels are pale, soft shades of their more saturated color counterparts. So, if you want to create a warm and soft vibe in your living room, decorate in shades of pastel colors. We love the look of mixing various shades of pastel and blush pinks with light grey and other neutral tones, balanced with brass and wood accents. This creates a living room made for relaxation.

This color scheme is perfect for…

Those who want a peaceful and serene space. It’s a perfect palette for mid-century and transitional room designs.

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Neutrals

Love a good neutral? Try a mix of neutral shades—like white, cream, brown, and black—all in one room, then balance it out with metallics. This makes for great contrast while still creating a calm and inviting vibe.

This color scheme is perfect for…

Rustic and minimalist spaces, and for those who want a neutral color palette but with more warmth and depth of color than a white color scheme.

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Black & White

A black and white living room design creates a very cool and collected vibe. Going for a fully black and white color scheme is quite posh, while adding in other shades, like brown, will add warmth. A black wall may be an unexpected choice for a living room paint color, but it really sets the tone for this space.

This color scheme is perfect for…

Those who love a little drama but don’t want a lot of colors in their space. This is a great palette for those with modern rustic and minimalist styles.

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Green

A green color scheme creates an earthy and serene vibe in your living room. We love combining multiple shades of green colors with rustic, natural woods and taupe upholstery. The result? A very soothing space.

This color scheme is perfect for…

Those who want earthy but polished space. It’s a particularly great color palette for homes with rustic or coastal style.

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Browns

The color brown encourages people to slow down and relax, and also creates a sense of security. So, a mixture of various shades of brown—from tan to rust to chocolate—are great for creating a stylized but warm and inviting atmosphere in your living room. But to keep this color scheme from feeling drab, we added in pops of blue for contrast.

This color scheme is perfect for…

Those who appreciate both modern and elegant spaces, in traditional and rustic styles.

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Multicolor

Here’s some good news: you don’t have to choose just one color to dominate the color scheme of your living room! In fact, we really love a multicolor palette, which creates an eclectic vibe. Above, we used a classic color combination of red, blue, and neutrals. But we brought those colors in through a variety of patterns for a very lively and fun space. Mixing in wood and natural materials helps ground the look.

This color scheme is perfect for…

Those who love classic color combinations but want a space with unique style.

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5 Bold Wall Color Ideas We Love for Any Room

If you have a hankering to change up the look of your space, bold wall colors might be just what you need. Paint sets the mood for a room and can instantly add personality and style to an otherwise lackluster space. Even if none of your furniture changes, a new coat of paint can totally transform the look and feel of the room. If you’re looking to try out something a bit bolder, here are our 5 picks for bold wall colors that help set a mood.

charcoal blue paintCharcoal Blue

We love this Charcoal Blue bold wall paint by Sherwin Williams. It’s bold and dark but has a grey tint that also gives it a neutral quality to make it super versatile. It’s perfect if you have a lot of white/neutrals in your space because the color adds contrast and makes light furniture pop instead of appearing drab. And, the richness of the deep blue is cool but doesn’t feel chilly.

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gulf stream paintGulf Stream

If you’re really ready to go bold and conquer, consider this Gulf Stream color by Sherwin Williams. This intense aqua blue is as bold as they come! It’s a lovely, vibrant hue that brings the tropical vibes of Miami right into your home. This bold paint color definitely makes a statement for a person who is unafraid of color. And it pairs really well with bright furniture and accents, like this gold sofa and neon artwork!

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black swan paintBlack Swan

An almost purple shade of grey, this Black Swan paint color by Sherwin Williams is just as intense as it sounds! This shade is not for the faint of heart – it’s a hue that is daring and unapologetically bold. You will definitely set a distinct mood with this color, although the kind of mood depends on how you accessorize. It’s a great hue for eclectic interiors or in rooms where you want the materials to shine, like this luxe armchair and the yellow porcelain vase.

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Radicchio wall paint Radicchio

If you want to really spice up your room, go for this Radicchio shade by Farrow & Ball. The super red hot color that makes a great compliment to natural tones. If you’re not ready to deck out the entire room in Radicchio, why not consider it for an accent wall or a room that isn’t your main living space. Red is a great color for spaces where you want to feel energized and lively, like an entry or bathing space!

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green black paintGreen Black

Almost a dark shade of olive, this Green Black hue from Farrow & Ball is the most neutral of the bunch. This is a great color for monochrome spaces that use other shades of grey. It helps foster a sense of calm and peace because it’s on the cooler side of the spectrum. It’s also neutral enough to perfectly complement a variety of styles, including modern, industrial and contemporary designs.

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